When Kayleigh Rust moved to Cody in November 2018, she already knew what a beautiful piece of the world she was going to live in. She was ready for the influx of tourists every summer, making their way through Cody to Yellowstone National Park.
People would save money and use time off of work to come to Cody and glimpse its stunning scenery, sometimes coming for special occasions like anniversaries or birthdays.
But Rust noted that there was one thing missing from the Cody business landscape: weddings. No one had ever seemed to tap into the wedding market, with only a few event venues or wedding planners doing business in the area.
As a professional photographer who specializes in weddings, Rust knew the ins and outs of planning either an elaborate or intimate ceremony. In her time shooting weddings, she’d discovered a passion for organization and a demand for order in the wedding chaos, so she branched out into wedding planning.
Rust’s event rental service Wild West Collective officially opened in November 2019 and with the addition of wedding planning, Rust was planning on 2020 being a big year.
Unfortunately, Rust and most others around the world couldn’t plan for the coronavirus pandemic. With gatherings in Wyoming currently limited to 10 people or less, Rust and Sheridan-based wedding photographer Cassie Madden have had to prepare for the potential impact.
“So far, I’ve had six brides reschedule,” Rust said. “Very few people are going to cancel their weddings, because there’s been so much invested. I’ve started thinking a lot about my June weddings and the people who’ll be traveling into the state, but I’m waiting to hear about the phases for lifting public health measures before directing my summer brides further.”
Madden has also seen a number of the weddings she’s booked reschedule, but the June and July events are also a matter of playing the waiting game, trying to figure out if the curve will have been flattened enough in Wyoming that Gov. Mark Gordon declares larger gatherings safe.
Rust regularly works with couples holding intimate weddings, so she expects those ceremonies to take place over the summer and early fall as scheduled. But she’s told brides with big guest lists to start cutting names.
“Take the stress off yourself now,” she recommended. “I think people planning a wedding right now should be realistic right now and listen to medical professionals and maybe even err on the side of caution.”
Rust and Madden both believe that weddings will get smaller post-pandemic, with guests lists for the ceremony getting significantly shorter.
According to wedding planning site The Knot, the average wedding size is 137, while intimate weddings of 50 guests or fewer made up around 10% of ceremonies.
The two photographers are saddened to see brides have to reschedule their weddings, but they’ve been trying to remind their clients that it’s OK to be disappointed that their weddings will not occur on the originally scheduled date.
They’re both trying to remind their clients that their wedding should be about them and their partner and no one should be worried about getting sick during the happy occasion.
“The people who truly enjoy their wedding days are the ones who roll with the punches, accept what’s happening and choose joy,” Madden said. “People think weddings are controllable, but they’re just not, even in the best of times. You’re with people you love, so choose joy no matter the circumstances.”